I’ve been thinking about some funny moments while covering stuff as a reporter, and this one about a PETA protest (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) comes to mind. I was sent out to cover the protest at Hartford’s Bushnell Park while interning at the Hartford Advocate (RIP). It was the sort of throw-away assignment you send the intern out to go fetch and see what he comes back with. This particular stunt involved two beautiful naked blondes showering behind a PETA banner. PETA’s goal seemed to be to get people to care about animal treatment by lulling you in with naked chicks, but it soon became apparent the sheer presence of these women voided the entire message. It’s like being in a math class that you absolutely have to pass, but the teacher is a total babe and as a result you totally flunk out.
I remember one guy completely rubber necked while driving by. He then abruptly stopped, to the point that his brakes screeched. He was just the type of person this sort of event didn’t want to attract: buff and not at all concerned with animal rights. The guy approached the scene with an unbelievable look on his face, and as I told him I was a reporter and asked why he pulled over to come here, he just sort of slowly brushed me off by giving me his business card and walked right by me (he was a mechanic or something). The man was completely enveloped in the moment. There was another lady handing out fliers with facts on them, but I don’t even think this guy knew what was going on. He was here for the peep show.
I quoted another guy who seemed a little bit more interested in the cause. He worked in sales, and said going vegan messed with his work ethic. He lost his competitive edge when he stopped eating meat, along with his sex drive, so he stopped.
It was a weird scene, but the whole thing is a good reminder that you never know when you can come away with a good story. On the surface, the protest looked like another completely staged, PR event, but then all the characters started coming out of the woodwork, and made for an interesting story.